The research is in, and it shows that yoga is good for you—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Yoga is a great compliment to psychotherapy because it helps clients learn self-regulation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, regulation of affective arousal, increased awareness of internal sates and recognition of physiological response connected to symptoms (Emerson, 2015). Not only does yoga decrease stress, tension, anxiety and depression, but it also reduces pain, improves concentration, memory and coordination, it lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, and increases immunity among many other benefits.
So what exactly is Christian Yoga?
In scripture we find “Worship the Lord with all your might, with all your strength, with all your being” (Mark 12:30), and Acts 17:28 says that in Him we move, we live, we breathe, and we have our being. Whether we are washing dishes, doing laundry, walking, lifting weights, or stretching, we should glorify God with everything He has given us. Romans 12:2 reminds us to take our everyday coming and goings and offer it up as worship and prayer. Christian Yoga is the practice of putting this scripture into action. Michelle Thielen, founder of YogaFaith, calls this prayer in motion, stating that it is a great way to deepen worship, and allow time for stillness to meditate and listen for God’s voice.
Yoga is NOT a religion, rather it is a practice or philosophy. There is evidence of yoga philosophy dating back 5,000 years, the earliest being 2,000-1,500 BC, and yoga traditions predate the Hindu religion. Yoga poses, specifically, were meant as preparation for long periods of sitting, perhaps for meditation by some. As Christians, we can use yoga as a way of connecting with God, Jesus, & the Holy Spirit. Yoga is not something that we worship, it’s something that enhances worship. Christian yoga is an expression of praise that prepares us for meditating on God’s word and oneness with Him.
The practice of Christian yoga combines aspects of traditional yoga practice including poses, breathing techniques and meditation with Christianity. Christian yoga focuses on scripture and connecting with God through mind, body, and spirit. The word Yoga literally means “to yoke” or “unite.” As Christians we unite with God by meditating on His Word and worshiping him through movement.
God is sovereign, not just in its simplest Webster definition of supreme in power and authority, but in biblical definition and context. Nothing happens that He doesn’t know about or that is outside of His control. God has no limitations and is above all things (Rev 21:6), He created all things (Col. 1:16), and knows all things (Rom 11:33). God can do all things and orchestrates everything (Jer. 32:17) and is in control of all things (Ps 103:19). In knowing that God is sovereign, you can exercise the spiritual discipline of growing closer to Him in intimacy & awareness. Yoga was not created without his knowledge, and just as God can redeem each of our stories, he can redeem and use yoga for His purposes. Yoga can be used as a discipline to bring people closer to God. He can use anything for His glory and honor.
It comes down to intentionality, in that we as Christians set our intention on Him, benefitting physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. While Christian Yoga provides an alternative, we are called to be discerning. There are many different types of yoga out there in the world. It would be wise to avoid any class that creates a level of discomfort and negatively affects your commitment to God.
For further reading check out “The Christian Yoga Myth: Can Christian’s Do Yoga?” and “What is Christian Yoga?”
Curious about learning more about Christian Yoga or possibly taking a class? Contact Brittany Edie, licensed counselor and registered yoga teacher, to inquire about upcoming classes and workshops.